Return of the Living Dead 4 & 5 Sci-Fi Channel Premiere Reviews

Note: With four hours of Sci-Fi Channel original "entertainment" to get through in one night, it's impossible for one person to take that much in one sitting. As such, help has been called in. Chris Beaumont covers the first of the films this week, and as is the norm, I take on the second.

Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis Review by Chris Beaumont

It's been a long time since I've seen any of the Return of the Living Dead movies, to be honest, I can't even recall if I've ever seen Part II. Being that my last viewing is a bit of a fuzzy memory, so my grasp of details is a little slim. Anyway, the returning dead are back for another go around, the first since 1993. There are 2 new sequels, Necropolis and Rave to the Grave. I am here to take a look at the first one, Necropolis.

The show starts with the introduction of a new company, very much in the vein of Resident Evil's Umbrella Corporation, called Hybra Tech. They are behind everything from consumer products to military weapons, snack food to toxic waste disposal (hmmmm, want another Twinkie?). Their main claim to fame appears to be their stopping of any zombie outbreaks, and their being responsible for keeping the world zombie free for over a decade (since Part 3).

Not everything is fine and dandy with this all encompassing company, they are also doing illegal testing on human subjects using a modified version of the Trioxin 245 gas from the original films, called Trioxin 5. The scene shifts for more than the first hour to a group of high school kids going about their daily routine, who's dating who, going to class, jumping motorcycles, you know, the usual. That is until one of the kids gets hurt and finds himself a part of the experiments.

It is up to the rest of the kids to get in a help him escape. This is where the zombie fun begins. All of the experimental creatures get loose and start wreaking havoc. For the last 40 minutes or so we are treated to a barrage of zombie violence. This includes bullets to the head, the backs of skulls getting bitten off, bodies getting run over, and more gore than I expected to see on the Sci-Fi Channel. Then there are the Borg (Star Trek) inspired zombie parents of the main kid. It ends, of course, with the good guys winning, but the battle apparently just beginning, as the chief scientist escapes with the last remaining barrel of chemical.

You may notice a lack of character names, well they were so inconsequential that I don't recall any of them.

The movie is not all that good. For one thing it doesn't seem to obey any of the previously established rules, nor does it set up any of it's own. This results in a mishmash of ways to kill a zombie. Zombies die by head shots, multiple body shots, a broken neck, nothing making a pattern. In this respect, the zombie fan in me is sorely disappointed. You need to have some rules in these films, and considering the series that this supposedly a part of, it would have been nice to have some references to it.

The acting is sub par. None of the kids strike me as terribly bright, especially the guy who wants to see his zombie parents that he thought we actually dead. This requires them to traverse the facility through oncoming waves of the undead. The dialog is bad, the characters say stupid things to each other, and pretend that this is serious. Then there is the usually dependable Peter Coyote, he played the scientist. He has this goofy grin on his face most of the time. You would have expected him to die, but wait for the sequel.

A big problem is that the filmmakers seem to have forgotten the comedic elements of the series. Necropolis plays everything straight, any laughs are unintentional. Of course, there was the one line of homage: "Send more security guards." Too bad it was rather clumsily wedged in there.

Overall, it is better than your average Sci-Fi Original, but as a Return of the Living Dead sequel, it doesn't measure up. I'm glad I didn't pay to see it, but I am glad to have spent the time. Every once in awhile all you need is a corny, doesn't make sense, zombie movie, especially during the Halloween season.

Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave Review by Matt Paprocki

It's been done so many times, you need to do something different with your zombie film if you want it to succeed. Obviously strapped for a budget, this fifth installment of the Return of the Living Dead series heads straight for camp, which is where the series has dangled for a while. There needs to be a special ingredient for camp to actually work, and while that's not necessarily here, it's still hilarious at times.

Leading the way are two Interpol agents. At first, they seem out of place. The movie doesn't hit its cheesy mark until a decent way into the film, and then it starts finding something to latch onto. The zombie moments are spread out liberally to keep the gore coming (though disappointingly toned down for TV), so it rarely has a chance to become boring once underway.

There's no question this is an awful movie though. Part 5 definitely falls into the so-bad-it's-good category. The inclusion of a mysterious tank is the film's brightest moment, building it up only to release a creature that ends up trying to hitchhike his way home. Whether or not you get the joke depends on your apathy for the zombie-horror genre.

Otherwise, if it wasn't for the comedy, there's nothing here worth watching this for. The dull build-up is as bad as it gets, stupid kids slowly passing around drugs for a high on school grounds. Little do they know that this is made from the same chemical that created the zombie issues in the previous film. It's a setup that only exists to get a zombie on screen and have brains ripped from skulls. A montage setting up the Halloween rave party (really bad timing for a zombie attack) lasts about three minutes with no purpose.

That leaves this fifth sequel one for die-hard fans only. Understanding the parts that make it entertaining depends on how many movies like this you've seen in the past. Don't make this your first zombie flick experience. You'll never go back.

Comments (2)

Boy Matt, I am glad we didn't miss out on such a double feature!

I know. Our traffic must be way above normal now!

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